I am in the process of applying for a PhD at the univerity where I am currently completing my undergraduate.

The application has a section for awards. I don't have anything to show for my time as a undergraduate (my university doesn't really acknowledge achievements in coursework).

I have several awards from my tertairy entrance exams/subjects completed in highschool. Such as:

  • Award from my current univerity for being the highest ranking disabled applicant for undergraduate.
  • Award for being one of the highest scoring in my state for a particular tertiary entrance subjects
  • Several awards from my highschool for topping the school in particular tertiary entrances subjects

Are achievements/awards gained as a result of actions I undertook in highschool relevant to my application now?

I'm not talking about things like merit certificates in lower years of highschool (Its not impressive to piles of those), just things relating to my tertiary entrance exams/subjects, particularly the first two which are awarded by the university and the state, for achievement in final year of highschool.

3 Answers 3


High school awards are unlikely to help much but they probably won't hurt you either. I think it's fine to include them on a short "early-career" CV but move them to the very end to signal that you understand that these are not important measures of your current qualifications.

Who knows, if they are really awesome, they might might even help. I saw a graduate student CV once that listed being ranked first on a province-level college admissions exam that included many tens of thousands of students. Sure, it was a long time ago, but I was still impressed enough that I remember this now. I think I kept my high school awards on my CV until I started thinking about going on the faculty job market as a PhD student. At point, they just seemed completely irrelevant.


I wouldn't include high school awards because it's really not the same playing field as undergraduate and graduate level study. Were you awarded any scholarships while in school? These can go under awards as well.

Applying to the same institution will likely help your application. If you have no awards, focus on your personal statement which can set you apart. You likely have familiarity with the profs and research happening at your school. Familiarity with those would be impressive in your essay.

Best of luck!


In general I would head into the same direction as Benjamin Mako Hill's answer: They might not help you in the application but they shouldn't do any harm. However, I would restrict that to awards that have at least some relevance to your application. This can be either awards for some achievements in the field of your PhD or awards that are about your general skills.

As an example for the first type, if you apply for a position in biology, you might add an award for being among the top 5% of the state in your high school final exams in biology. I maybe wouldn't include the same biology award if I'd apply for a position in economics. By this you can show that you're already interested in that topic for some time.

For the second type, imagine you received some award for some type of ongoing social engagement beyond the "normal" activities during your high school time. By this you could show that you are not just pulling your duties but also are willing to engage in things that are beyond your obligations.

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